Usually, when I’m at home in Austin, I work in coffee shops. Today, I’m working from our gobsmackingly beautiful public library. And I can’t help but repeatedly ask myself “What would happen if someone pitched the idea of a public library today?”
It’s a broken record in my brain. An audio loop. It plays every time I turn a corner in this space.
“What would it sound like to argue for the idea of a public library in 2019?”Continue reading → “Public Libraries Shouldn’t Exist”
Consider a few alternatives. Let’s say I told you:
A. I want to remove every unhealthy habit, food, and mindset from my life, and I’m going to start tomorrow.
B. I’m going to eat less sugar, starting tomorrow.
When tomorrow comes, which one are you likely to hold me accountable to? Which might you help me excuse when I fall short? Which are you actually expecting me to do? Or even realistically try?
Let’s do a few more with those questions in mind.
A. It’s my goal to transform my country to 100% renewable energy.
B. It’s my goal to transform my local school district to 50% renewable energy.
A. My organization is going to end racism, globally.
B. My organization is going to help local people of color, and other disenfranchised people, register to vote and get to the polls.
That’s plenty to get the point I’m going to make, I think.
But first, here’s what I’m not about to say: that any of the As above — the lofty, admirable, pie-in-the-sky ambitions — are in any way bad, undesirable, or something I’m advocating against.
I want all of those things. I have, at different points in my life, said all of those things, in some way or another. And I don’t even like thinking of myself as ambitious.
Here’s all I want to point out: sometime we set the bar so high because it gives us an excuse when we can’t clear it.Continue reading → “When Ambition is Hiding”
A lot of us are addicted to our phones. If you’ve started to see why this might not be the best thing ever, and want to ween yourself off of that tantalizingly non-nourishing blue glow, you’re in good company. This is something I’ve been thinking about, and experimenting with, for a few years now. Following are three things you knock out in about 15 minutes, that will benefit you for weeks.
Before I get into those, I want to be clear: I’m talking about the colloquial, not clinical, usage of the term “addiction.” In this post, I’m not staking my flag in the hill that “phone addiction” is (or isn’t) real.
What I’m talking about here, as addiction, is the compulsive use of our phones. That we’re spending more time poking around our phones than we want to, picking them up and checking the screen before we realize we’re doing it, and that our phones aren’t adding quality to our lives, and might be distracting us from the things we’d actually care about enjoying.Continue reading → “3 Simple Things You Can Do to Curb Your Phone Addiction Right Now”
You want emails from me?
Here are two options.
My last few weeks have been marked by creativity. I love that feeling. I want to make it happen more.
Bill Gates is frequently quoted for saying, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
I feel this contrast more intensely on a smaller scale: we overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can do in a year.
It’s so easy for me to think of myself as a creative person — a writer, a doodler, a designer, a coder — even when I don’t create anything in a given day.
But I’m not really a writer when I’m not writing. I’m a reader of political news, or a dog walker, or a cook, or a compulsively rechecking my email because it triggers a dopamine response-er.
I’ve been “working on a book for three years” now, but I haven’t truly been working on that book for three years. I’ve barely worked on it at all. A few minutes here, an hour there.
Creativity is an act, and one that is so easily sidelined by other actions — anything that feels safer, simpler, easier, or fulfills a shortsighted desire.
How many people do you know who are “working” on things that never get any creative time dedicated to them?
How many projects are you “working” on that you haven’t sat down in front of for over a week? A month? A year? Ever?
Last week, I finished and published a book. The week before I co-created and published a massive Train-the-Trainer Retreat Guide. The week before that I wrote a new comedy show. And in between all of that I’ve made major strides in starting two new (secret, for now) projects. And I’ve only checked my email two thousand times (a made up number down from what I assume is my normal two million times per month).
But in the weeks before that, I was mostly just slogging through administrative stuff. Checking in on old things, closing out 2018. Not really making progress on anything, with only a few essays and one edugraphic to show for it.
All of that got me reflecting on the ebbs and flows of my own creativity, and wanting to come up with some personal challenge or strategy to get a better grasp on that part of my life.
I don’t want to spend most of my time on tasks that amount to nothing, but feel good in the moment (or at least don’t feel terrifying, like creativity often does).
I want to spend most of my time creating things that I share with the world, that are durable, that might exist when I’m gone.Continue reading → “The Creative March”
Because I’m self-taught in most things I do — from programming to design to animation — a lot of my friends ask me for tips on how to learn a particular thing.
“I want to learn how to make websites,” a friend will ask. “Where do you think I should start?”
Over the years, I’ve given a lot of different responses. Pointing people to free online resources for learning, like Codecademy or Khan Academy. Or telling them to join a local workshop or meet-up. Or both.
It’s not how I learned, but it’s easier to point someone to a resource than it is to give an autobiography for how I learned something myself.
However, seeing that advice fail again and again prompted me to rethink my rationale.
What would it look like, if I advised people to learn things how I’ve learned them?Continue reading → “Learn For a Project, Not the Sake of Learning”
Something I see all the time on the internet is people saying “They should have a…” or “They should make a…” and then sharing some idea, platform, service, movement, or cause that the commenter wants, and believes “they” should create.
A few years ago, this made sense. The request was legitimate and necessary.
There were gatekeepers in every industry — from arts to activism to commerce to community-building — who were the “They.” It was They who had to approve our appeal to create a new thing.
You couldn’t just make that thing, or build that platform, or create that movement, release that show, or host that community yourself.
You needed Their permission. You needed Them to make it for you.Continue reading → “You Can Stop Saying “They Should Make A…””